“The words that enlighten the soul are more precious than jewels.”
~Hazrat Inayat Khan, qtd. in Science and Spirituality, page 141
[by Rev. Leland Stewart]
It hardly seems possible that fifty years have passed since this organization began during International Cooperation Year 1965. As it turns out, I believe that I am the only person now active in the Council who has been present since the beginning. My wife and I were the founders of International Cooperation Council, but she has now passed on, leaving me as the living founder.
With that fact in mind, I feel that it is my special privilege to reflect on these fifty years, both to recall what has taken place that I can share with others, and also to help shape a plan to begin our next fifty years. This year is a special time in that regard, and different events are shaping up to give that effort some reality.
Our first festival was held at the Reseda Women’s Club in 1965, with our keynote presenters being pianist/comedian Steve Allen and depth psychologist Dr. Ira Progoff. It was a wonderful beginning, and it became a stimulus to continue on an annual basis. The first two aspects of our ongoing work were the annual International Cooperation Festival and an annual World Directory of participating organizations and other related groups on a worldwide basis.
The original name of the organization was International Cooperation Council, which was a direct link to the purpose of International Cooperation Year 1965. We held many outstanding festivals during that time, including one at the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, which featured Ruth Carter Stapleton (former President Carter’s sister), Buckminster Fuller, and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D.
In 1979, the Council took on a much too large Festival in Pasadena, which drew most of the well known names in the “new age” movement, but financially it was well beyond our means and caused a complete restructuring of the International Cooperation Council and a change of name to Unity-and-Diversity World Council. The Council’s work has continued from then till the present, and gradually a number of other dimensions of the work have begun, such as the monthly Interfaith Celebrations, regular interfaith type services on Sunday mornings, and more recently the Culture of Peace Educational Series.
At various times during these fifty years, based upon the Unity-and-Diversity Wheel, convergences have been held to provide a way for individuals, groups, and networks that were not well acquainted with each other to move together and explore areas of common ground. The Wheel has evolved during that time, and in 2012 it was converted into a Peace Wheel, and its use during the annual event called Peace Sunday resulted in the holding of a year’s worth of meetings comprising a Culture of Peace Series.
This year, as the climax of four years of preparing for our 50th anniversary, we are holding a special Peace Sunday at the Agape International Spiritual Center, which has an average attendance of 2,000 to 2,500 each Sunday during three services starting at 6:30 a.m. and continuing till about 1:15 p.m. UDC will have a small part to play in each of the three services, plus a smaller meeting in the afternoon (2:30-4 p.m.) to add more to its own Peace Sunday. Included will be displays of artwork, essays, and poetry from a number of schools in the Southern California area, for which awards will also be given.
An additional element to this year’s celebration, there will be a United Peoples Convergence at the IMAN Cultural Center on Saturday, September 19th, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Networks of groups and individuals will meet separately in the morning, then after lunch they will converge into a General Assembly, which is being designed to be an ongoing effort from that point on. UDC had held General Assembly sessions in the past but on a smaller basis. If this effort works according to plan, it will be a real boost to the idea of United Peoples as a form of direct democracy.
You are cordially invited to participate in one or both of these related events as a way of supporting UDC’s 50th anniversary and thereby strengthening our interfaith and intergroup cooperation.
Spirit is One; paths are many!!!